If you are anything like me, then you probably assumed that Silicon Valley is the world mecca for early stage start-ups and investment opportunities. If you assumed this, you’d be wrong. In fact, the true world center for startups is Israel. This small country has produced the highest number of tech startups per capita and exits per startups in the world. Perhaps this is because there are so many immigrants in Israel, and statistics have proven that immigrants make for the best entrepreneurs for their ability to see opportunity everywhere as well as their capacity to build something from nothing. Some believe Israel’s mandatory military service grooms leaders, thereby feeding into the country’s high occurrences of entrepreneurism. Whatever the reason, today’s Israel is built upon a foundation of innovators, entrepreneurs, engineers, theorists, and business magnates with an innate ability to build startups from scratch and launch them into massive businesses.
At the crossroads of talent and innovation, there is opportunity. When companies like Waze, Viber, Wix, SanDisk, Checkpoint and tens of thousands of others execute their vision, there is an opportunity for massive wealth creation for savvy investors. Up until now, that wealth creation was for the select few, the insiders of Israel if you will, who knew what startup deals were percolating, long before the rest of the world even heard of the technologies. Israeli startups created $15 billion of investor value through exits and 17 IPOs in 2014 alone, making Israel the world’s most capital efficient startup ecosystem for early stage investors.
Israel is a chest of golden opportunity for investors, if only you can find the opportunities. If only you are one of the few insiders who know how to find and access the talent and innovation busily driving innovation behind closed doors in this tiny country. Well, for the first time ever, there’s a team who has created a treasure map. The company name is iAngels, founded by Mor Assia and Shelly Hod Moyal, two Israeli women who formed a friendship many years ago in New York City, and armed with their MBAs, business acumen, and love for Israel, moved back to Tel Aviv to help finance the startups becoming the most impressive new firms in the world while simultaneously exposing Israel’s deeply rich talent to investors hungry to get behind the scenes on the highly profitable investment opportunities coming out of Israel.
I recently interviewed Mor Assia and Shelly Hod Moyal to find out what it takes to create a treasure map of success like iAngels has done in Israel. Here are there four simple lessons for finding the X that marks the spot.
Respect Above All Else: The two women have been close like sisters since meeting in NYC six years ago. I asked if it is difficult working with someone whom you are so close with and the two said no. They said that, on the contrary, it’s easier to build a business with someone who you have respected and trusted for many years. In fact, they both acknowledge that the early success of iAngels has been based on their personal belief that their strong friendship must always come before the business. This approach transcends when it comes to their iAngels team and their customers who are both startup entrepreneurs and startup investors. Mor reiterated that when respect for the investor, entrepreneur, client, employee, or each other is the basis of the relationship, then all things related to building the business come easily.
It’s a Family Sport: Mor says that entrepreneurism is a family sport. Both Shelly and Mor have husbands and children, and both agree that the success of iAngels has been a byproduct of the support they receive at home. The duo are constantly meeting with entrepreneurs, evaluating startups, and communicating with the investors who seek out iAngels for access to technology and talent in Israel. They are constantly juggling home and work, depending deeply on the support of their families who give slack when needed and encouragement and praise for the success and growth of their business regularly.
A Partner Who Compliments You: Shelly and Mor believe that one of the reasons their partnership is so successful is that they are very different in their career backgrounds. Shelly has worked for high profile firms like UBS, where she tailored investment portfolios for over 100 high net worth individuals, and Goldman Sachs where she analyzed high profile M&As, IPOs, Private Equity and restructuring transactions. Mor’s background as a software engineer at SAP included R&D development and managing global development teams. At IBM in New York, Mor developed acquisition strategies while working for the Strategy and Transformation practice. Mor also worked for the Israeli Defense Force, for one of their elite intelligence units, where many of Israel’s most successful entrepreneurs serve. She was chosen from thousands of applicants to work as an analyst on secret technologies and intelligence. Both women are highly driven, successful, entrepreneurs, with their own very specific niches of expertise. Shelly believes that by finding a business partner with a different set of skills, forces you to think outside of your own comfort zone while retaining a safety net. The safety net is that the other partner is brilliant in her skill set, and when each works toward understanding the other, they both get stronger.
Everything is Backed By Research: I raised the question as to whether Shelly and Mor get into arguments about the direction that the company should move in. They admit that they don’t agree on everything. However, they said that the best businesses are built upon massive amounts of research. When the two have differing opinions, both sides present the research they have gathered so that together they can come to a logical conclusion. The entire company is research driven. This applies to decision making in the company as well as to their rigorous due diligence process they conduct when evaluating an investment decision. Data speaks the truth and as analysts at heart, they strive to bring forth a data driven approach to investing, where investors need not only rely on intuition or personal opinion but rather a structured, analytical approach to evaluate and make a decision.
Shelly and Mor are more than just entrepreneurs, they too are innovators just like the ones they call clients. They have founded their own niche vertical of creating a bridge between innovation and capital in a land that unassumingly built the biggest hub of startup innovation in the world while almost nobody was looking. In fact, someone was looking. Shelly and Mor were paying close attention all along, and by doing so, the most savvy investors in the world no longer need to because iAngels is doing it for them.